"Big Brother no longer just virtual in Second Life" — or at least that was one member's response to the popular virtual world's latest change to its gaming policy. Second Life's new policy effectively bans its virtual residents from participating in the many online gambling sites that have developed in "The World." Linden Labs' new policy, revised as of July 25th, now states: "It is a violation of this policy to wager in games in the Second Life (R) environment operated on Linden Labs servers if such games: 1) (a) rely on chance or random number generation to determine a winner, OR (b) rely on the outcome of real-life organized sporting events, AND (2) provide a payout in (a) Linden Dollars, OR b) any real-world currency or thing of value."
Second Life has attracted over eight million members to its virtual environment where real estate speculation, escort services, a virtual World Stock Exchange, and online gaming were allowed to thrive. One of Second Life's basic tenets has been that "all Residents are legally responsible for their own activities and complying with the laws in the local jurisdiction in which they reside," creating the philosophical foundation for its virtual Libertarian utopia. But as a US-based service provider in a new UIGEA-regulated environment, Linden Labs, the developer of Second Life, has "decided to take a broader approach by prohibiting all games that meet the criteria in our policy." The activities specifically banned include poker, blackjack, pai gow, craps, faro, roulette, pachinko, slot machines, sports books, and sports betting.
This is not the first policy change relating to online gaming in Second Life's virtual world. In April 2007, Second Life announced they would no longer accept "advertising of any classified ads, place listings, or event listings that appear to relate to simulated casino activity."
The response from members has been predictable and mirrors the concerns they voiced after April's policy change. "I don't like gambling, but everyone has the freedom to choose whether or not to waste their money" and "after gambling, who knows what they will go after." Many have suggested that the real side of the virtual world, the servers, be moved to an offshore location.
Second Life's motto is "Your World. Your Imagination," but starting yesterday, it's their ban on online gaming.